If you are also one of those who use the words psychologist vs therapist interchangeably – don’t worry, you’re not the only one doing this! At some point in time, we all may have felt that the two are overlapping professions and hardly have any notable differences.
So, if you were to seek some medical advice for the problem you’re facing, it wouldn’t be so easy to figure whom to reach out to.
Besides that, the list doesn’t end with just psychologists and therapists in the picture. We have other mental health professionals who can add to your confusion.
These professionals may include the following-
- Clinical psychologists
- Social scientists
- Talk therapists
- Mental health counselors
- Life coaches
- Marriage/ family therapists
So, to help you with this uncertainty, we will cover some important aspects to help you understand how a psychologist is different from a therapist.
More importantly, we don’t want you to land in trouble by knocking on the wrong door. This is why we urge you to read this article.
Psychologist vs Therapist
The key difference between psychologist and therapist is that a psychologist can be a therapist, but a therapist may or may not be a psychologist.
Since both psychologists and therapists have a goal in common, i.e. to enhance the lives of people, it makes it all the more challenging to choose one. Having said that, we will help you differentiate between the two to help you decide which treatment to go for post your clinical diagnosis.
Therefore, it’s important to take note of the nature/ scope of work and their areas of expertise as well as the different approaches both these professionals take.
Mental illness must be dealt with utmost care and attentiveness. If you experience any of these, you should visit your primary care doctor.
Psychology is concerned with the study of the mind and behavior of an individual or group.
A psychologist is a mental health professional who secures a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or a Psy.D. or EdD) in psychology.
He/ She is a social scientist, trained to either practice clinical psychology or do research or both. In the course of their education, they must complete some years of supervised practice and research so as to secure a license and practice independently.
Scope & Nature of Work
Psychologists are trained professionals, who study human behavior and mental processes. They are qualified to diagnose as well as treat disorders relating to the mental and emotional health of the patients.
Psychology professionals can hold positions like
- Licensed counselor
- School social worker
- Hospital social worker
Moreover, psychologists having licenses are qualified to do counseling, perform psychotherapy, administer psychological assessments and above all offer treatment.
However, they are not medical doctors and therefore, cannot write prescriptions.
In such scenarios, a psychologist often works in tandem with a psychiatrist or a medical health professional, who is qualified to offer treatment for the mental problem. In a few exceptional cases though, a psychologist can prescribe medications.
Over time psychology has made headway by developing several efficient strategies to cope with different mental disorders.
The field of psychology may include the following-
- Clinical psychologists,
- Counseling psychologists,
- Developmental psychologists,
- School psychologists,
- Industrial-organizational psychologists,
- Forensic psychologists
A therapist on the other hand, usually holds a master’s degree in psychology, social work or counseling psychology from a medical school.
They work directly with people to understand, diagnose, and treat their mental and emotional disorders.
Therapists can include a variety of mental health professionals including-
- Family and marriage counselors
- Life coaches
- Licensed social workers
These individuals also require a license in order to practice.
In addition, they are required to have a clinical supervisor and must work within a practice; as a result, they can’t work independently.
This is also one feature which distinguishes therapists from psychologists.
The term therapist is a protected term in many states and can be used by only a few mental health professionals mentioned above and by those who have state board licensure.
Scope & Nature of Work
Therapists need not necessarily conduct research but often write for research publications.
They use Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, talk therapy, etc. in order to treat the problems. However, they may combine different types of treatments to chart out the best mechanism suitable for the recovery of mental disorders of their clients.
Therapists don’t necessarily follow an established treatment plan. Their approach to therapy changes depending on the client’s changing needs.
You may often find these therapists in one of the following settings:
- Mental health facilities
- Private offices
- Different organizations
We hope you find the above information helpful and it’s our wish that this article helps you take the right course of action.
It’s always recommended that you take your time in selecting the right therapist/ psychologist as we understand that mental/ emotional wellbeing is an area which is as important as physical wellbeing. Ignoring which can lead to disastrous consequences.
So, the next time you have a mental ailment, you’ll know where to go!
Ira Singh is an unconventional writer, dreamer and a perpetual learner who loves to play with words and push the envelope. She started her career as a recruitment professional but due to her deep fondness for writing, she switched into content writing. With 4 years of experience in professional writing, she’s inclined towards writing on Psychology and medical-related content. She creates content for blogs, articles, copy for websites, social media posts and much more. A blend of her humble writing experience along with her newfound endeavor to inspire people with her work is what’s on her table now.